Women Helping Women—a World Away

The power of an email to change a life

In our work, we make it a point to “go the last mile” to help women who—because of geography, gender inequality, or social custom—would otherwise be unreachable. It’s important to us to do our level best for every woman who suffers from a childbirth injury that causes incontinence. When we find new ways to reach women who might otherwise slip through the cracks, we jump into action.

Most of the women we serve will never interact with us directly. They don’t receive our greeting cards, and they will never visit our office in San Jose, California. But even in remote regions, the internet continues to connect the world, linking places and people who were once isolated from each other. 

In this way, women with fistula sometimes find themselves at our digital doorstep. They discover our website, our email address, or one of our social channels. Then they write to us via email (info@fistulafoundation.org), and they tell us their stories. They’ve heard about what we’ve done for women like them, and they ask if we can help them, too. And with the click of a few buttons—from our office in San Jose—we connect these women with life-transforming treatment in their home countries.

Jackelen Renteria-Bustos, our marketing and communications associate (shown above left, with Martina Matiang’I, in Kenya), is a key driver of this effort. Since August 2022, when she took on a role that involves monitoring our public email account, Jackelen has connected four women in Kenya with life-transforming treatment that they otherwise could not afford.

“This has been one of the most rewarding parts of my job!” said Jackelen. “It’s hard to believe that I can change a woman’s life just by sending out an email. This whole experience brings me so much joy, and it truly opens my eyes to the difference that is being made.”

Two Lives Changed Forever



Hani (left) and Mary Ann (right) are two of the women whom we’ve helped through digital outreach. 

Hani is a 26-year-old woman from Nairobi who suffered with fecal incontinence for seven years before she found us. She has two children, and during one of her pregnancies, she developed a severe perineal tear, a childbirth injury similar to fistula. Hani reached out to Fistula Foundation via email, and Jackelen connected her to staff members at the Fistula Foundation Treatment Network (FFTN) in Kenya. Through FFTN in Kenya, Hani was screened and referred to Jamaa Mission Hospital in Nairobi for treatment. Today, she is dry! 

Mary Ann is a 29-year-old mother to four children. Like Hani, she suffered from fecal incontinence. Mary Ann’s niece, Lucy, was determined to help her aunt, so she reached out to us by email. Shortly after this contact, our team in Kenya got in touch with Mary Ann. She was screened and then referred to Kisii Gynocare for treatment. Mary Ann traveled 60 kilometers (about 37 miles) from her hometown of Bondo to access care. Today, she is happy, healthy, and dry.

How It Works

When an inquiry reaches our inbox about a woman who needs help, Jackelen identifies her location and collects her phone number. In countries where we have a team on the ground, Jackelen provides the woman with hotline numbers and tells her that when she calls, an outreach worker will conduct a screening over the phone. Meanwhile, Jackelen sends information about the woman to Kee Rajagopal, our associate program manager, who works with our partners to connect the woman to free, local care at a partner facility.

“Our process is more than just a system to connect women to care,” said Kee. “It is a lifeline for those who have been suffering for months, if not years. As I work with our partners in the field to ensure these women receive the care that they need, I am filled with a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Knowing that one email can change a woman’s life and provide her with the care she deserves is truly heartwarming.”

Jackelen echoed that sentiment. “I’ve always aspired to make a difference in this big world, and now I can gladly say that I have!” she said. “I am delighted to know that one email from me has helped give a woman the opportunity to live a new, healthy life.”

We’re proud to go the last mile for women in need. If you or someone you know is suffering from incontinence after childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia, please contact us.

Published on April 11, 2023

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